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What you need to know about Persona 5 if you’ve never played a Persona game

This is very different from any other role-playing game

We’re Persona fans here at Polygon. We played the hell out of Persona 5 for our review and loved it. We’re already working on a bunch of in-depth guides to help you out, and we’ve even gathered specific tips to help you get through the first 20 hours.

But we also know that not everyone knows Persona as well as we do. Not everyone spent hundreds of hours on Persona 3, or played Persona 4 to completion multiple times across multiple platforms.

With Persona 5’s incredible stylishness, it’s sure to pull some new fans who have never checked out the series before. If you’re one of those fans, this is for you. We’ve collected some advice for helping you get the most out of your time with Persona 5.

Take your time

Before we dig into anything else, the most important piece of advice we could offer for Persona 5 is a simple one: Don’t rush it. This is a long game — it took us over 100 hours to finish it for our review. Trying to blast through it as quickly as possible, especially if it’s your first game in the series, is just going to suck the fun out.

The ideal with Persona 5 is to take your time. This is a game that you’ll probably still be playing months from now, and that’s OK. There’s no rush.

But not too much time

Er, except when there is a rush. Shortly into Persona 5, after you unlock its first dungeon, you may notice a countdown in the upper right corner of the screen, letting you know the number of days until a certain event happens.

A big source of the challenge and narrative momentum in Persona 5 comes from these deadlines. For each dungeon in the game, you’ll be given a set number of days that you have to complete said dungeon before something bad happens.

To be clear: These are not just suggestions. They are hard deadlines. If you have not conquered the current dungeon by the time these dates arrive, you will hit a game over. And not in the cute “Aw, a fun alternate ending” sort of way.

While you shouldn’t stress over deadlines too much — you’re generally given plenty of time for multiple trips to any dungeon — they are important to keep in mind. Persona 5 adds another twist onto the schedule as well, as you’ll need an extra day to deliver a calling card before completing any dungeon. As such, be sure to not save everything until the last possible day.

Atlus

Organizing your social calendar

You may have heard that Persona 5 is a Japanese role-playing game, and that’s true. But it’s only a part of the game, and one that carries certain expectations that this series gladly walks all over.

Your time in Persona 5 is actually split, with about 30 or 40 percent devoted to the dungeon-crawling and turn-based combat traditional to RPGs and the rest is all about time management. See, each day in Persona 5 is split into segments of morning/afternoon and evening, and most major activities in the game — hanging out with friends, taking time to study, working a job and so on — cause time to pass.

As you’ll play the game, you’ll begin to work out when certain people are available to hang out, what days are best for studying and so on. You should always have multiple strong candidates for how to spend your time on each calendar day, and you’re likely to discover certain bonds or stats that you want to focus on as you progress. Wherever you choose to spend your time, just make sure you’re doing something with each free time block you’re given.

Make friends

A huge part of the appeal of the Persona games is the idea of “social links,” or as they’re called in Persona 5, confidants. By spending time with your friends — both party members and other non-playable characters that you meet — you will build up relationships, which both unlock new gameplay bonuses and allow you to view new story sequences involving those characters.

This is one of the best parts of the game, and it’s worth embracing it. Find which characters you enjoy being around, and choose to hang out with them. Each confidant is tied to a specific type of Persona; try bringing a Persona of their type with you when you hang out with a confidant to give a boost to how quickly you rank up that relationship.

Some confidants, especially later in the game and later in rank-ups, will require a certain social stat to keep progressing things. Which leads into the next point:

persona 5

Always try to improve yourself

Beyond the traditional RPG stats that you improve via leveling up, Persona 5 features five “social stats:” charm, guts, knowledge kindness and proficiency. Different non-dungeon activities will slowly build up each of these stats, and the higher your rank in them, the more confidant hang-outs and other options will be open to you.

There are a lot of ways to improve these stats, but let’s start with a few general tips. First off, always carry an unread book with you everywhere. In addition to spending time reading in the evening, some mornings on the train ride to school you’ll get an open seat, which provides free time for reading. You can purchase books at bookstores or check them out of the school library.

Second, every open Sunday, be sure to go to the train station and purchase the special juice available at a booth there. The type of juice will rotate out from week to week, raising different stats, but importantly it will do so without passing time, which is a rarity.

Here are a few tips for each specific stat:

Charm: Your absolute best bet for raising charm is to spend some evenings visiting the public bathhouse near the main character’s living quarters. The bathhouse always gives a boost to charm, but it will give a bigger boost on Mondays, Thursdays and any day when it’s raining. You can also raise charm by spending time with Yoshida, a confidant located just outside of the Shibuya train station.

Guts: There are a few methods for raising guts in Persona 5, but your best bet is to spend time with Tae Takemi, a confidant located at the clinic near the main character’s house. You can also go to the local diner and order coffee, which has the added benefit of improving your Knowledge at the same time.

Knowledge: Knowledge is the social stat with the single most opportunities to raise it. Fairly regularly — usually at least a couple times a week — your teacher will ask you a question during class. Answering the question correctly will raise your knowledge, while answering incorrectly will get you nothing. In other words, you want to answer correctly as often as possible, even if it means pausing the game to Google the answer. You can also boost knowledge by studying at the diner, especially on rainy days, and checking the TV inside Cafe Leblanc to answer TV quizzes (which do not progress time).

Kindness: Kindness has one important method that doesn’t pass time: buying plant fertilizer and using it on the plant in your room once every couple of weeks. Beyond that, hanging out with Sojiro Sakura at Leblanc and improving your connection with him will also feed into kindness, as does working any jobs where you have to interact directly with customers.

Proficiency: Proficiency can be one of the harder social stats to raise, but also one with the most rewards. The best way to improve it is to craft tools at your desk. Not only does this increase proficiency but, well, it gets you those tools which can then be used in dungeons — in particular, you’ll want to focus on lockpicks. One quirk, however: There’s an element of randomness to crafting that determines how many of each item you make. If you get lucky and manage to make multiple extras, you’ll earn more of a buff to your proficiency than you would otherwise. You may want to save and reload before doing crafting to try to maximize this bonus when possible.

Persona 5 Atlus

Don’t try to do everything

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the people to hang out with, stats to raise and stuff to do in Persona 5, you’re not alone. It’s a lot. But the important thing is to step back, take a deep breath and know that you don’t need to do it all.

There is a tendency among gamers in general (and RPG players in particular) to be pretty completionist. Persona 5 is a game that makes that really difficult, at least especially on a first playthrough. While it’s possible to max out all of your confidant relationships and social stats on your first playthrough, it’s extremely difficult and frankly not the recommended way to play.

Instead, focus in on the characters and elements you enjoy the most. If you hit a roadblock with someone that requires having max guts, and you have more important stuff to do, don’t sweat it. Social stats will carry over in new-game-plus, so if you really want to have a perfect, “accomplish-everything” run, you can do it your second time through.

Find some useful friends

OK, so we’ve determined that you don’t need to try to do everything. But if your time is limited, you might as well make the stuff you spend your time on really count. There are a few confidants who are particularly useful in making the rest of your experience as smooth as possible.

Sadayo Kawakami - Your homeroom teacher will become a confidant that you can begin building a relationship with some time in May on the in-game calendar. It’s worth noting that each time you hang out with Kawakami, it will cost you about 5,000 yen, so it’s a spendy relationship to rank up. It’s worth the investment, however; over time you’ll be able to call on Kawakami to make coffee (which is essential for dungeon runs) and do your laundry (which lets you discover new items to equip). If you max your relationship out with her, you’ll be able to call her and get a massage, allowing you to stay awake and spend more time getting other stuff done even on days when you’ve entered a dungeon.

Yuuki Mishima - A clingy, dorky, scruffy teenager, Mishima may not be the most appealing confidant. Nonetheless, spending time with him is a good idea. Ranking up with Mishima leads to sidequests being unlocked, which provide good opportunities to explore the Mementos side dungeon and get some big rewards for doing so.

Chihaya Mifune - You’ll be able to strike up a friendship with this fortune teller in Shinjuku beginning in June. As you progress, Mifune will offer some really helpful skills, including the ability to increase the rate of growth for selected social stats and the ability to increase your bond with other confidants. Essentially, she lets you play catch-up if you get behind.

Your teammates - Since you’ll be spending the most time with them already, it’s likely you’ll want to get to know characters like Ann and Ryuji. But building your confidant relationship doesn’t just provide backstory for your partners; it also teaches them new tricks they can use during combat, such as the ability to perform powerful follow-up attacks or to take an otherwise lethal hit in place of the main character. You’ll almost certainly want to max out as many of your party members as you can.

Hifumi Togo - Togo is a mysterious character — a world-class shogi player who just happens to spend most of her free time in church. The benefit of spending time with her is that you’ll learn serious tactics, which translates to some really huge abilities in battle. Most notably, even just unlocking this confidant and earning your first rank with her will open up the ability to swap party members out during the main character’s turn in combat.

Have fun

Persona 5 can be overwhelming, giving the possibilities for how to spend your time, the challenge of the combat and the sheer length of the game. But it’s also just a ton of fun. If you find yourself getting burned out, don’t be afraid to take a break and come back to it later, when you can appreciate the slick, stylish world of Persona for what it is.

Been playing Persona 5 and got more tips for other players? Leave them in the comments. And if you’re looking for more specific pointers for certain sections, or thoughts on how to spend your time day-to-day, check out our full guide and walkthrough.